Stepping Into the World of European Cinema

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Angeliki Papoulia in "Dogtooth." (Courtesy Kino International)

By Parker Dunn, Assistant Arts Editor

 

Where we come from and what kind of environment we are raised in plays a large role in how we perceive our own lives and the world surrounding us. The United States fosters a completely different type of worldview in its residents than, say, Japan. I wouldn’t say human beings are a product of their environment in totality, but it would be ignorant not to acknowledge the clear effects our circumstances and conditions, to some degree, have on our ways of being.

How we as humans view and create art is in part due to this phenomenon, and the nuances of aesthetic as well as technicality in international film and cinema are especially evident. For all my fellow cinephiles that haven’t yet branched out to film outside of what’s produced in America, I’ve decided to put together a shortlist of European film recommendations to help take those first steps into unfamiliar yet rewarding territory.

Sweden: “Winter Light”

The work of acclaimed Swedish writer and director Ingmar Bergman deserves an article of its own, and I could’ve picked a number of different Bergman films to take this particular spot, but I had to go with the first film of his I saw, “Winter Light,” which follows the life of a pastor and his dealings with a faith crisis.

Without spoiling too much, I fell in love with this brilliant 1963 drama for two main reasons. First, I adore the poetic and philosophical nature of the direction and writing — every bit of dialogue makes you feel, reason and wonder all at once. And second, the film’s technical choices, specifically that which pertains to camera movement, embody human intricacy — something you’d think is near impossible.

If you only see one of the films listed in this article, see this one. Its runtime is only an hour and 21 minutes, and it’s absolutely enamoring through and through.

Netherlands: “Spoorloos”

“Spoorloos,” or alternatively “The Vanishing” is one of the most real yet out-of-this-world thrillers I’ve ever seen. This film tapped into a fear of mine I didn’t even realize I had until my first viewing. Directed by Dutch filmmaker George Sluizer, the movie is predicated on the disappearance of main character Rex Hofman’s partner, Saskia Wagter, and Hofman’s unhealthy determination to find her for years after.

The atmosphere of this film is unlike any other. As a viewer, you feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and prone to manipulation and deception throughout the majority of the film. All of these feelings climax at one hell of an ending, and you’re left with tortuous amounts of emotional residue as the credits roll.

It’s hard to give this movie the credit it deserves without discussing major plot points and thus spoiling the movie, so just take my word for it and watch this film.

Greece: “Dogtooth“

Most movie-goers are probably familiar with the name Yorgos Lanthimos, he’s the man behind films such as “The Favourite” and “The Lobster” — both of which are fairly well-known movies in the United States. I liken the cryptic nature of Lanthimos’ films to elements of American filmmaker David Lynch’s work — something always feels a bit ‘off’ when you watch either of these directors’ films.

Lanthimos’ 2009 film “Dogtooth” can certainly be classified as ‘off,’ and even more so: bizarre. The film is about a father who keeps his adult children essentially locked away from the outside world, forbidding them to leave home until they lose a dogtooth. In addition to keeping his children in not-so-blissful ignorance, the father also teaches them absurdities such as barking on all fours to fend off the most dangerous of animals — the cat.

This film is terrifying in the way it shows how much influence and control a parent can have over their children.

 

It’s so important to take a step outside of what you’re accustomed to, whether it be in art or culture in general. By experiencing what human beings from different walks of life have to offer, we not only become more understanding and accepting, but more enlightened on the human condition and what different people find to be beautiful and emotionally engaging.

 

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